Google Doodle today celebrates the 97th birthday of Russian mathematician Olga Ladyzhenskaya. Ladyzhenskaya triumphed over “personal tragedy and obstacles to become one of the most influential thinkers of her generation,” Google says in its blog post. She was born in the rural town of Kologriv on this day in 1922 and found love for algebra after being inspired by her father, a mathematician who descended from Russian nobility. She lost her father at an age of 15, when he was jailed and executed by Soviet authorities who accused him of being an “enemy of the state”.
Her mother and sisters subsequently sold dresses, shoes and soap to make ends meet. Though she graduated from secondary school with excellent grades, Olga was denied admission to Leningrad State University because of her family name. She finally got the chance to attend Moscow State University after years of teaching math to secondary school students. At Moscow State University, she studied under the renowned mathematician Ivan Petrovsky and earned her PhD. Later, she went on to head the head the Laboratory of Mathematical Physics at the Steklov Mathematical Institute. The Google Doodle today draws inspiration from differential equation and the humble beginning of Ladyzhenskaya.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Olga elected to stay in Russia despite the economic pressures that followed. Olga Ladyzhenskaya is an author of more than 250 papers and her methods for solving partial differential equations remain influential even today. In 1990, she became president of the St. Petersburg Mathematical Society after having been its member since 1959. She received the Lomonosov Gold Medal from the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2002.